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Recapping the First Virtual CSCC Conference

by Raina Dyer-Barr and Sal Nudo / Oct 4, 2021

Serving as the headquarters for The Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC) since January of 2020, the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) hosted the first-ever virtual CSCC conference in April of 2021.

CSCC’s 62nd annual conference was marked by seven preconference sessions, a general conference that featured 60 research and scholarly papers, 48 roundtables, eight symposiums, a session on publishing, two keynote addresses, and presented an opportunity for more than 300 conference registrants to interact with one another via Zoom across three conference days. The theme of the conference was "Advancing Radical Possibilities for Community Colleges."

“We and our friends and colleagues went through a historic, first-time virtual CSCC conference together due to the pandemic,” said Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, executive director of CSCC and director of OCCRL. “Participants who logged in to learn, or who presented, engaged with people they’d never met before, and some of them rekindled relationships with those in the field. We’re extremely proud to have successfully hosted it virtually.”

Day One

The preconference began with a session titled "Re-envisioning Community College Board of Trustees," which covered how such boards are stagnant, unequal, and overdue to be better represented with more women and minoritized groups. Subsequently, a session titled "Navigating Community College and Further Education," facilitated by young professionals, offered insights into the transfer pathway experience from two- to four-year institutions and beyond, and related the utility and impact of research experiences on transfer readiness.  

Other preconference sessions covered a variety of topics. In particular, faculty members of color shared how to generate academic success from the perspective of students; graduate students discussed life during COVID-19 and how they juggled multiple roles, intersecting identities, and responsibilities; department chairs engaged in conversation about their training priorities, preferences, and needs; and scholars offered their expertise on issues of Latina/o students’ access success in higher education, and the role philanthropy in advancing racial equity and social justice in community college research, leadership, and practice.

Following the morning preconference events, the general conference kicked off in the afternoon with the opening session and the “2021 CSCC Presidential Address,” which featured a prerecorded interview between CSCC president Dr. Regina Garza Mitchell and Dr. Rufus Glasper, the president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College, who shared his inspirational life story and educational journey.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with roundtable discussions that covered a wide variety of topics such as community college mentoring programs, perspectives from women faculty members of community colleges, pursuing equity and justice in an urban community college, and much more. Day one of the virtual conference wrapped with a number of opportunities for conference attendees to “meet and greet” one another and socialize via the CSCC opening reception, the mentor-mentee exchange, as well receptions hosted by 2021 Double Diamond Sponsors Arrupe College of Loyola University of Chicago and Mississippi State University.

Day Two

Dr. Dhanfu E. Elston, chief of staff and senior vice president for strategy at Complete College America, opened the second day of the general conference with a keynote address that centered the college-completion agenda at large and how educators and institutions can assist students toward this objective. Concurrent paper sessions followed the keynote address, covering a wide range of topics related specifically to the community college context, including racialized realities, career and technical education, developmental education and core curriculum, transfer and transition, marginalized student populations, data use, leadership, COVID-19, and career pathways and preparation.

The CSCC awards ceremony, hosted by CSCC Executive Director Dr. Zamani-Gallaher, took place in the afternoon. During the ceremony, CSCC past-president Dr. Mark D’Amico introduced Dr. Evangela Oates as the recipient of the newly renamed Romano Dissertation of the Year Award. Other recognized awardees included Dr. Cliff Harbour (Senior Scholar Award), Dr. Cristobal Salinas (Emerging Scholar Award), Dr. Lauren Schudde (Emerging Scholar Award), and Dr. Marissa Vasquez (Research Grant Award).

Four concurrent symposium sessions also took place in the afternoon and featured panel discussions around topics that included how to advance radical possibilities for community colleges through entrepreneurial leadership, strategies for advancing a transfer-sending and receptive culture for Latino men, the urgent need to develop future community college leaders and researchers, and the intersection between community college finance and access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Day two of the virtual conference concluded with an open business meeting, followed by a 45-minute virtual happy hour where attendees were introduced to Eli Pabon, a multitalented dancer, singer, lyricist, instructor, grant writer, percussionist, and founder of the Boston-based BOMBAntillana. Pabon's presentation combined her musical talents and storytelling ability to give participants a glimpse into what Bomba represents to her and to the practitioners of this music genre. Dr. Theopolies "Theo" Moton also offered his keen musical sensibilities to wind down the day, playing classic tunes that had attendees smiling and doing on-screen head nods, dancing, and clapping.

Day Three

The third and final day of the virtual conference began with the annual Publisher’s Information Session. This year’s session, “Advancing Radical Possibilities for Community Colleges Through Publishing,” highlighted the publishing process of four journals and offered an opportunity to talk about new areas of research to advance the field.

The publishing session was followed by a series of roundtable sessions that covered topics ranging from racial injustices during the global pandemic to shifting dimensions in how community college faculty members are working; implementing entrepreneurship into career and technical prison college programs to the status of female executive leadership happening in postsecondary education; and accommodating student activists at community colleges to STEM identity development for community college students.

Another three symposium sessions also took place: “Imagining Radical Futures in the Success of Latinx Community Colleges Students,” “How Community Colleges Can Foster Student Success for Formerly Incarcerated Students,” and “Advancing the Equity Mission: Policy Perspectives for Practice.” After a short refresher break, more concurrent paper sessions highlighted the numerous missions of community colleges, the state-policy influences on community colleges, asset-based approaches to education, and stakeholders and STEM in community colleges. Day three ended with a plenary session and a closed board of directors meeting. Ultimately, the 62nd annual CSCC conference was a great success that offered members and conference registrants a supreme virtual conference-going experience.